Sugar Sugar Rune, Volume 1

Creator: Moyoco Anno
U.S. publisher: Del Rey
ISBN: 9780345486295
Released: September 2005
Original release: 2004
Awards: Kodansha Manga Award

Sugar Sugar Rune was the third manga series by Moyoco Anno to be licenced in English. The first volume of Sugar Sugar Rune was released in Japan in 2004. The English-language edition, published by Del Rey Manga, was released only a year later in 2005. Unlike all of Anno’s other manga currently available in English, Sugar Sugar Rune is a shoujo manga created for a younger audience, specifically girls between the ages of six and twelve. However, the series also appeals to adult readers. Sugar Sugar Rune is probably one one Anno’s most popular and well known manga series. Anno received the 2005 Kodansha Manga Award for best children’s manga for Sugar Sugar Rune. The manga was also adapted into a fifty-one episode anime series between 2005 and 2006. I thoroughly enjoyed Sugar Sugar Rune when I first read it and was happy to have the excuse of the Moyoco Anno Manga Moveable Feast to take a another look at the series.

Chocolat Meilleure and Vanilla Mieux are two best friends whose personalities couldn’t be more different. Vanilla is shy and reserved while Chocolat is brash and outgoing. Now the two of them are rivals as well as friends—both of the young witch girls have been selected as a candidate for the next Queen of the Magical World. As part of the test to determine who will become Queen, Chocolat and Vanilla are sent to the Human World to see who can capture the most hearts. Chocolat’s aggressive personality, which was admired in the Magical World, seems to have put her at a disadvantage in the Human World where most boys appear to prefer the more demure Vanilla. But that’s not about to stop Chocolat from doing her best to win over, and take, the hearts of those she meets.

In part, Sugar Sugar Rune is a magical girl series and so many of the tropes and conventions of that genre are present. There are strong themes of love, friendship, and staying true to yourself as well as plenty of accessories and merchandising opportunities. But underneath Sugar Sugar Rune‘s sugary, candy-coated exterior is a center that’s bittersweet. There is fun and magic, but there’s also the beginning of Chocolat’s coming-of-age story. Stealing hearts and playing with the feelings of others have some very real consequences with which the girls will have to come to terms. They also have to guard their own hearts carefully: humans can have their hearts taken multiple times, but witches and wizards only have one true heart. Should a witch fall in love with another person and have her heart stolen she may even die.

Sugar Sugar Rune starts out innocently enough but there are also hints of something more ominous brewing. I think that’s one of the things that makes the series so engaging. I also love Anno’s characters and their designs. Chooclat really steals the show in the first volume. I wasn’t as enamored with Vanilla at first, but she did grow on me. The secondary characters are great, too—everyone from the girls’ guardian of sorts Robin, who makes his living in the Human World as an idol stealing the hearts of women hundreds at a time, to the neighborhood boy and classmate Akira, who is obsessed with aliens and is convinced Chocolat is from another planet. Anno’s artwork is a wonderful as always although occasionally there’s so much going on on a given page that it can be overwhelming. Sugar Sugar Rune is a truly delightful series; the first volume only gives a taste of what is to come.

My Week in Manga: January 14-January 20, 2013

My News and Reviews

The Moyoco Anno Manga Moveable Feast has begun! This month’s Feast is being hosted right here at Experiments in Manga, so expect to see more content than usual this week (including a guest post!) beginning with some quick takes of Anno’s manga available in English below. To start things off, I posted an introduction to the Feast on Sunday. For more information about how to contribute to the Feast, please check out the Call for Participation. I’m looking forward to the Feast and hope you all are, too! I will be doing my best as host, so please enjoy.

Although I was busy preparing for the Feast last week, I was still able to post a couple of reviews. The next review in my Blade of the Immortal review project was posted—Blade of the Immortal, Volume 17: On the Perfection of Anatomy. Hiroaki Samura doesn’t progress the plot much in this volume, but it features some very important character development. I also reviewed Miyuki Miyabe’s fantasy novel The Book of Heroes. I had previously read Brave Story and so was looking forward to reading The Book of Heroes. The novel actually frustrated me as a story, but I loved the ideas and concepts that Miyabe explored in it.

Elsewhere online, the Toronto Comics Art Festival announced the list of featured guests for 2013 which includes mangaka Gengoroh Tagame and Taiyo Matsumoto among some other fantastic creators. I finally have a passport, so I’m hoping that I can actually go to TCAF this year. Over at Narrative Investigations, Helen has a nice review of Saki Hiwatari’s Please Save My Earth, Volume 1 which she won during last month’s giveaway here at Experiments in Manga. (This month’s giveaway will be posted next week, so stay tuned!)

Quick Takes

Flowers & Bees, Volumes 1-7 by Moyoco Anno. Masao Komatsu desperately wants a girlfriend but is hopelessly unpopular. Believing his problems stem from his unattractiveness, he becomes a slave to beauty and improving himself. Flowers & Bees is frequently crass, rude, and raunchy, its humor often bordering on inappropriate. It’s not a series for the easily offended, but it is hilarious. I prefer Flowers & Bees when it is being manic and outrageous. The second half of the series calms down a little once Komatsu begins to settle into an real relationship. Granted, that relationship isn’t without its problems. There’s also actually some legitimate fashion and dating advice to be found in Flowers & Bees.

Happy Mania, Volumes 1-11 by Moyoco Anno. Happy Mania was the first manga by Anno to be released in English. It was also one of the first josei manga to be published in North America. The series follows Kayoko Shigeta and her crazed pursuit of true love, or at least the perfect boyfriend. Happy Mania is often ridiculous and absurd; I don’t think there’s a single healthy relationship in the entire series. Shigeta is an incredibly self-absorbed and selfish character, but I still ended up liking her. Unfortunately, every time she looks like she might get her life together, something gets in the way (usually herself.) In some ways, the ending might be a little disappointing, but it is very much in keeping with Shigeta’s character. And in that way, it’s perfect.

Sakuran: Blossoms Wild by Moyoco Anno. Taking place in the Yoshiwara pleasure district of Edo, Sakuran is one of the few period pieces that Anno has created. The manga is about Kiyoha, a girl who is sold to a brothel as a maid, eventually becoming one of the district’s highest ranking courtesans. The portrayal of sex work in Sakuran isn’t idealized or romanticized. Overall, I think the manga is one of Anno’s strongest works in English; it’s certainly her most serious, although it’s not without humor. Plus, Sakuran is the only manga of Anno’s available in English that features her gorgeous color artwork. Anno is currently working on a sequel to Sakuran; hopefully Vertical will be able to license it, too.

Sugar Sugar Rune, Volumes 1-8 by Moyoco Anno. In 2005, Anno won the Kodansha Manga Award for best children’s manga for her series Sugar Sugar Rune. Arguably, it is her most widely popular and well known series, appealing to both younger and older readers. One of the things that I like best about Sugar Sugar Rune is its huge cast. The wide range of characters all exhibit distinct personalities and stylish designs and each play their own role in the increasingly complex story. Chocolat and Vanilla are two young witches and best friends competing to become the next queen of the Magical World by collecting hearts in the Human World. Meanwhile, war is threatening to break out between two rival factions in the Magical World, putting everyone in danger.

My Week in Manga: October 24-October 30, 2011

My News and Reviews

Today is the last day of the Horror Manga Moveable Feast and it’s been a great one! My quick takes from last week featured vampire themed manga while this week I’m featuring a variety of other horror influenced manga (plus Sugar Sugar Rune which isn’t horror, but reminds me of Hallowe’en). Last week I also posted a review of Otsuichi and Kendi Oiwa’s Goth manga adaptation. And after some encouragement from the Feast’s host Lori Henderson, I made a last minute contribution—Random Musings: Nightmare Inspector. (Which is one of the reasons this week’s new and reviews section is rather brief.)

Also! October’s manga giveaway for Moyoco Anno’s Sugar Sugar Rune, Volume 1 is up and going. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win the first volume of a great fantasy series—Manga Giveaway: Happy Hallowe’en! (Sugar Sugar Rune Giveaway)

Quick Takes

Berserk, Volume 35 by Kentaro Miura. Guts and his companions are still on the high seas when the wind of change passes over the world. He is also still recovering from his last battle, but his skills are needed when the ship must face a hoard of demons from the sea. Occasionally Miura’s monster designs can feel somewhat repetitive, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less frightening. The art in Berserk is detailed and the battles are chaotic. Guts’ ordeal continues as he fights to protect those he’s come to consider friends. But the very power that he must use might also be the power that destroys them all. Berserk remains one of my favorite manga series; now begins the long wait for the next volume. 

Dragon Head, Volumes 1-10 by Mochizuki Minetaro. I enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction and Dragon Head is one of the best examples of the genre that I’ve come across in manga. The series explores the fear and the darkness, both literal and figurative, that cataclysmic events bring about. Dragon Head is fiction, and so some of the human responses to the tragedy feels overly dramatized, but the story is still very engrossing. I did find the inclusion of the scar heads somewhat odd, but they do provide another interesting perspective on fear. One of the most terrifying things in the world is the unknown, and the characters are never able to determine for certain what has happened. Minetaro’s art works fantastically well for the series, particularly the ravaged landscapes and scenes of destruction.

Grand Guignol Orchestra, Volume 1 by Kaori Yuki. I have a feeling that Grand Guignol Orchestra is a series that I like in theory but am unsatisfied with in reality. I mean, an orchestra that fights zombies with music (among other things)? How great is that? Pretty great in my opinion, but after reading the first volume I haven’t been convinced that Yuki will be able to pull it off. Even the characters haven’t settled in yet. The first volume seems unfocused and rushed at the same time, as if Yuki was trying to shove in too many manic ideas all at once. Still, the ability to take out a zombie with a tuning fork is pretty awesome. And even though it seems to have nothing to do with the actual story, I really like Gwin’s pet hedgehog.

King of Thorn, Volume 1 by Yuji Iwahara. The extremely deadly Medusa virus is running rampant across the world. In an effort to find a cure, a group of people chosen by lottery are put into stasis. But some awake to a world drastically different from the one they left. The facility they are in is in an extreme state of decay and carnivorous dinosaur-like creatures are roaming the grounds. The virus is no longer their immediate concern as they must struggle to simply survive. One of the things I like best about King of Thorn is that the ensemble cast is so diverse in both character design and personality. It is obvious from the way they interact with each other that Iwahara has put some thought into exactly who these people are. I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of the series.

Sugar Sugar Rune, Volumes 1-8 by Moyoco Anno. For a series that was created with elementary school students in mind, Sugar Sugar Rune is incredibly engaging for adult readers as well. It starts out innocently enough, two young witches have come to the human world to compete to become the next queen of the magical world, but the story quickly becomes deeper and more complex. The characters and setting are wonderfully well-rounded. Anno’s art is great even if some of the pages become a bit overwhelming. Marvelous attention is given to details such as clothing. Sometimes plot developments come out of nowhere, but they generally work in the long run. I really loved this series and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

Black Jack, Episodes 18-28 and Black Jack Special: The 4 Miracles of Life directed by Makoto Tezuka. I wouldn’t necessarily classify Black Jack anime as horror, although the potential is certainly there. I, for one, wouldn’t want to have to face the various diseases and conditions that afflict Black Jack’s patients. I find Black Jack to be a fantastic character and prefer the episodes where he plays a greater role in the story. He can be an absolute ass, but underneath he’s really very compassionate. Also, he’s a baddass. The Black Jack anime ran for sixty-one episodes but only the first twenty-nine episodes and the special are available through Crunchyroll. Fortunately, Black Jack is primarily episodic, so at least we’re not left with unresolved plot arcs. Plus, there’s always the original manga!

Manga Giveaway: Happy Hallowe’en! (Sugar Sugar Rune Giveaway)

Did October seem to go by really quickly for anyone else? Well, the end of the month is here which means it’s time for another manga giveaway! This month I’ve got a new copy of Sugar Sugar Rune, Volume 1 by Moyoco Anno as published by Del Rey Manga up for grabs. As always, the contest is open world-wide, so I hope you’ll take the opportunity to enter and win some free manga!

In addition to a manga giveaway, the end of October brings with it Hallowe’en! Sugar Sugar Rune is a wonderful fantasy series that brings the holiday to mind for me as it is celebrated in the United States. It’s got witches, magic, and chocolate after all! For this giveaway, I’m interested in learning what other manga reminds people of Hallowe’en or gets them in the mood for the holiday. Is it something sweeter like Sugar Sugar Rune, something creepy like Mushishi, something bloody and intense like Berserk, or something that utterly terrifies you? Don’t forget, the Horror Manga Moveable Feast is currently going on this week in case you need any ideas or inspiration!

So, you may be wondering, how can you win Sugar Sugar Rune, Volume 1?

1) In the comments below, tell me which manga gets you in the Hallowe’en spirit.
2) To earn a second entry, tell me why that manga gets you in the mood for Hallowe’en.
3) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

You are able to earn up to three entries for this giveaway. As usual, you have one week to get your comments in. If you have any trouble leaving comments, or if you would prefer, you can e-mail your entry to me at phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com and I will post it. The winner will be randomly selected and announced on November 2, 2011. Best of luck, and Happy Hallowe’en!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address, link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced—Manga Giveaway: Happy Hallowe’en! Winner